November 1989

Outside our house: Warsaw, avenues
named for generals, poets from a partitioned
century. Everything was falling down.
The stone monument with its collapsing nose.
The wall that cut Berlin into one body
and its sad reflection. I kept knocking
over furniture, as though someone
had moved the chairs. I tracked the days
by watching sun through silk drapes.
Yellow meant early morning. White
was winter dark. When it snowed,
my parents called history an unexpected
guest who rings the bell. It’s here,
they said and sang one hundred years
one hundred years. They drank so many
glasses of champagne. Who were we
becoming? Cocktail parties never stopped
their crystal clink or slurp of caviar.
How small my dresses hanging in the closet.
Pink lace. Pearl buttons down the back.
I locked the bathroom door, spent hours
with a razor learning not to cut my legs,
powdering my arms to change the smell.
The news was chipped concrete, open
checkpoints, fingers making V for victory.
When it snowed, the city was clean amnesia.
The bullet holes from some other war
frosted over, faces of buildings gone
blank, the whole world trying not to bleed,
barely knowing itself in the mirror.
which is Stateside (Northwestern University Press, 2010). Her work has appeared
New England Review, The New Republic, Ploughshares, and Prairie Schooner. She is an
assistant professor at Washington College.